Proposed trails worry property owners
By MEGAN STEPHENSON
March 15, 2012 · Updated 4:15 PM
POULSBO — The lines have been drawn: The lines on the Urban Paths of Poulsbo plan, and the line of trust between the City of Poulsbo and residents of West Poulsbo.
Some of the plan’s proposed trails have incensed property owners and environmental advocates because trail lines cross private property or are within stream buffers.
The Planning Commission recommended adoption of the 2011-12 Comprehensive Plan amendments Tuesday night, which included adoption of the Urban Paths of Poulsbo plan.
The city has been working on an urban trail system since 2007, when the city was preparing to update its Comprehensive Plan. The No. 1 request from residents was to have a citywide, connected trail system, according to Parks and Recreation Director Mary McCluskey.
Since 2007, the String of Pearls — a network of North Kitsap non-motorized trail — has come to fruition. And South and Central Kitsap are working on a trail system together. The goal of many is to link to a network of statewide trails, from the Discovery Trail on the Olympic Peninsula to Spokane.
Through public meetings and an inventory of the city’s trails, led by a volunteer trails committee, the city presented the Urban Paths of Poulsbo plan last year. Some of the proposed trails, mainly on the west side of Liberty Bay, are through large swaths of open space, but on private property or next to critical areas like wetlands and creeks.
“We had to start somewhere and get something down on paper,” McCluskey said at the meeting.
Planning Director Barry Berezowsky and McCluskey have stated in the past that actual alignment of where the trails will be depends on many factors, such as topography, critical areas and the willingness of properly owners. The sticky area is finding a north-south path for the trail within the city on the west side.
“I don’t care where the lines are at the end of the day,” Berezowsky said. “We’re going to at some point in time try to pursue a trail through cooperative volunteer effort of property owners. Frankly, it may never be complete because there are people who won’t cooperate.”
However, many residents spoke at the meeting, asking why the city planned for trails in controversial areas at all.
“Why would you put it some place where you know it won’t be?” said Jan Wold, who owns property around Johnson Creek. She said she thinks public trails are a great idea, but doesn’t support what is on the map.
John Nantz said putting trails next to sensitive areas is not a good idea. “‘Conceptual’ has a way of becoming ‘permanent,’” he said. “That’s no way to save the environment. We don’t want to love it to death.”
Commission Vice Chairman Robert Nordnes detected a distrust, that the government is going to take private land for public trails. “What we need is assurance that conceptual is conceptual,” he said.
Berezowsky responded, “There is no way the city is going to walk in and condemn someone’s property for a trail.”
For the commissioners, the city’s intent that the plan is a guide for future trails seems clear.
“We put as many safeguards in the amendments as we could,” Commissioner Stephanie Wells said.
Molly Lee was one of the residents who said the plan’s language was not strong enough to protect private property owner’s rights.
“I do not want a dotted pink line running through my property in your map,” she testified. “Anybody who wants a trail ... should probably go and buy some property and put a trail on it.”
“Conceptual not a guarantee-able word,” she said later.
“This is still a private property matter,” said Rebecca Grue, board member of the Liberty Bay Homeowners Association. “Seeing those lines … across your home, your private property, leads to concern.”
The Planning Commission’s recommendations will go to the City Council for final review, a public hearing and potential approval in April.
Contact North Kitsap Herald Megan Stephenson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-779-4464.